Understanding the times
We live in confusing times, times that are very different from the days not that long ago of the late nineties and early 2000s.
Back then everyone was positive, people were in a good mood, and little mistakes were overlooked or quickly forgiven. People were looking to the future, in hope of technological breakthroughs and hopes for unity in Europe and peace around the world.
But today we live in different times. Today the social mood is very negative. People find it easy to disagree. If you look at the home page of your favourite mainstream media new website you are guaranteed to see headlines that express outrage, criticism and report acts of violence.
How do we live in times like these?
A great first step is to try and limit your news intake. If your brain could be hooked up and measured for stress hormones as you read the news these days your stress hormones would surely be spiking overtime you read the news. Do yourself a favour and read and watch content on the internet that won’t stress you out.
A second step is to consciously try and be as considerate, and forgiving and long-suffering as you can with your fellow classmates, colleagues, peers and family. By showing grace and mercy you are living in a very counter-cultural and biblical way. Give people the benefit of the doubt in your interactions, when you speak about them and especially when they make a mistake. It will make your home, classroom, work environment and church a much better place.
A third step is to consciously try to be positive. As a Christian pastor I realize that positive thinking cannot solve all the world’s and my personal problems. Positive thinking can only get you so far. But because we live in such socially negative times I am making an effort to be positive. When I wake up each day, before I even roll out of bed, I pray to the Lord thanking Him for all my blessings of faith, forgiveness, family and church and then I say to myself, “It’s going to be a good day.” And I’ve found that this prayer and little phrase to start my day has really helped me to be more wired to see the positives instead of the negatives each day. It’s been a blessing to me and I hope it helps you too. And then at the end of the day I thank God for all his blessings received in the day and I say, “It’s been a good day. Thank you Lord.”
Biblically speaking, God’s holy Word has insight to help us understand our times as well.
In Acts chapter 2, St. Peter on the day of Pentecost sites the prophet Joel and essentially calls the days between the resurrected Jesus Christ’s ascension into heaven and the day when Jesus returns to be the end times. So we’re living in the end times. In the book of Revelation, St. John shows in the vision God gave him that our enemy the devil is continually out to get God’s church and hence to try and move Christians away from faith in Christ. Satan will do anything, including trying to get you really, really mad at your pastor or a member of your church to try and get you to say I’m done with those people and not go back. Satan’s goal by any means possible is to disconnect you from the forgiving and saving words of Christ and his holy sacraments. If Satan can do that he’s got you where he wants you. Don’t let that happen to you.
It’s worth noting that the negative social mood we are in is everywhere. It is in the ether so to speak and what that means is that at an unconscious level this is also affecting everyone at your church. Pray for your church even if it is a really peaceful place (and Grace Lutheran is a wonderful place) so that the Holy Spirit will maintain the bond of unity and peace in the Spirit at your church.
Ultimately, it is God the Holy Spirit who is our antidote to the confusing and socially negative times we live in. Continue to read God’s Word and worship so that the Holy Spirit will work through His Word to grant you his forgiveness and peace. That, way more powerfully than positive thinking, is the answer to the times we live in. Let God have his way with you as he uses his word and sacraments to shape and mould your heart and mind to be more like his.
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness but denying its power. Avoid such people. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (English Standard Version translation)
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and imposters will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:12-17 (English Standard Version translation)